Hong Kong Neon by An Huynh

We are leaving for our Asia trip in exactly two weeks!! Hong Kong is the first stop, and although neon signs are sadly on their way out, I’m looking forward to seeing the impact these lights have left behind and how contemporary signs do their best to imitate neon. I just love the idea that a city can have its own visual language for all the shops and services available. I love the messiness and simultaneous elegance and loudness of neon. The visual aftermath of businesses vying for optimum sign exposure creates some of the most exciting vertical landscapes I have ever seen. Hong Kong’s neon is also highly related to rising costs in cities, public health, and increasing regulations, and the article below talks briefly about that. I am so ready to get lost in this metropolis.

Full article: https://www.1843magazine.com/dispatches/feeling-nostalgic-for-hong-kongs-neon

Stop Using Participation Grades To Force Introverts To Speak In Class by An Huynh

A bit of a diversion from the usual subject matter, but this is important to me. I struggled all throughout high school with classes that based a large portion of its grade on participation. Speaking up was physically and mentally paralyzing. I would be sweating beads, heart rate beating as if I was running, trying to find a moment to force myself to say anything.

Teachers would make comments about how well I would do on written assignments but then would fail to say a single word in class discussions. I hated myself for it. I felt dumb and inadequate. And my grades suffered for it.

It wasn’t until college where I stumbled into a class, and later on a program, that was attuned to our different ways of learning and engagement. I learned that I thrive in small groups, that I actually love public speaking. I spoke up, gave my opinions, and felt like I could make a difference.

As I began to accept the ways in which I learned differently, I also began to appreciate those traits as qualities and not deficiencies. It was OK for me not to speak up in large group discussions, because I knew I could share in smaller groups and in other forms. Having professors who understood the value of students who learned by listening, not speaking, made all the difference in my education and perceptions of self worth.

Full article: https://introvertdear.com/news/introverts-speak-class/

Black Excellence by An Huynh

 Visuals were curated and designed by Cedric Jones as a part of the visual concept "Strange Fruit: The Black Unicorn".

Visuals were curated and designed by Cedric Jones as a part of the visual concept "Strange Fruit: The Black Unicorn".

I just wanted to share this amazing platform that showcases black excellence in the fields close to my heart: planning, public service, art, and advocacy. Inspiring work from inspiring people.


Crazy rich asians by An Huynh

With the movie coming out in theaters this week, I wanted to take some time to reflect on this bit of cinematic history. Is it worth the hype, or was this not the film we were waiting for?

The fact that we feel like we need to over-analyze this single movie is a testament to how underrepresented Asians and Asian Americans are in Hollywood. Crazy Rich Asians shouldn't be and isn't a story about all Asians, so we shouldn't be upset if this one movie doesn't reflect our own personal experiences or values. This is ONE story - and yes, there are very valid criticisms about it - but there are a million more stories with Asian and Asian American leads to tell.

Out of all the reviews and opinion articles I've read, I found this opinion piece from Code Switch to summarize my sentiments.

Opinion: Don't Sweat The #Repsweats And Let 'Crazy Rich Asians' Be What It Is

Crazy rich asians cast.png

"So often, when we discuss movies or TV shows for or with Asian-Americans, or any group of people of color, we demand it be everything for everyone. It's an unfair burden. We feel #repsweats, a term comedian Jenny Yang coined a few years back when discussing the launch of Fresh Off The Boat. It's the idea of sweating it out over representation, that feeling of: I don't even need to like this thing, but I need it to win, and the conviction that the thing in question has to be the best, so it can pave the way for more, since it's the only one of its kind.

I think there are valid critiques out there of Crazy Rich Asians: how Singapore is portrayed without its blemishes, how the country's Indian and Malay populations are all but nonexistent in the movie, how the film could say more about the overseas Chinese and their dominance in Asia. What all of this gets at, of course, is our need to have our stories told. But to demand that this movie meet the disparate needs of every person who sees it would be to force this movie to carry the sky on its shoulders, an overextended Atlas."

Full article here: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/08/14/637168347/opinion-dont-sweat-the-repsweats-and-let-crazy-rich-asians-be-what-it-is

The World's Most Controversial K-Pop Group by An Huynh

At first I was like helll no, but now I think I agree with the reporter's conclusions... The whole situation still makes me feel a little weird, and I still have a lot of conflicting thoughts (such as, "Why do white folks have to take everything from POC?" vs. "But Koreans totally accept them so it's not appropriation.") Ultimately though, I think these guys have a place in K-pop, even if I won't be listening to them anytime soon. Ugh.

Behind the Scenes | VÆR by An Huynh

Wong Fu's "Yappie" by An Huynh

YouTube has always been a treasure to me, not only for the cat videos and lip syncing masterpieces, but also for all the Asian American-generated content. The beauty and fashion bloggers like Michelle Phan and Jenn Im, the musicians like David Choi, AJ Rafael, and Clara C, and the personalities like KevJumba and NigaHiga - they all got their start on YouTube. These were the people I grew up watching when there weren't Asian American faces on any other media platform. Not only that, but these were Asian Americans in creative industries, which definitely wasn't something you could see in traditional media.

Wong Fu Productions, whose work I remember watching since the late 2000's, has a special place in my heart for their storytelling. It was a rare sight - Asian Americans making videos about Asian Americans and casting Asian American actors (what a concept!). It wasn't political content (although I would also argue that Asian Americans making creative content is already in itself a political act), it was just them telling stories about their lives, about love, friendships, sometimes funny, sometimes serious. Wong Fu would partner with other Asian American creatives and creators that I also loved, and it made YouTube feel like an alternate media reality that was my own little secret.

As I grew older and became more politically aware, I kept finding myself wanting for these influencers to also show that they were aware. I wanted them to talk about the 2016 presidential election, say that Black Lives Matter, and talk about their identity. At the same time, I acknowledge that it is their choice to decide what sort of content they produce.

I go back and forth between this all the time: Should public figures be responsible for speaking up against injustices? Especially for public figures from minority communities, should they be responsible for speaking up for their communities and being politically vocal in their content even when their usual content isn't political in nature?

I don't have an answer to that yet, but I am always glad and pleasantly surprised when these creators do bring up more political topics. For example, there has been a tag going around the beauty and fashion community talking about their experience Growing Up Asian American. Watching my favorite influencers talk about their relationship with their parents and feeling different in school was cathartic. I felt vindicated. I felt the presence of an entire community behind me watching these videos, and it also opened by eyes to our unique and sometimes heartbreaking struggles trying to make it in America.

This all brings me to Yappie: Wong Fu Productions' new mini series about Asian American identity. I was so excited for this launch, and the series didn't disappoint. It hit on some important subjects right on the nail: Racism within our community, Asian Americans straddling the privilege from the Model Minority Myth and discriminatory legislation, interracial dating, the invisibility of South Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Southeast Asians, and Asian American apathy and our role in supporting or hindering justice for black Americans. 

"Yappie" gives me more clarity on my earlier dilemma. While I will always hope that and appreciate when content creators have a dialogue about politics, it is not their responsibility or burden to speak up through their work. We need all sorts of content. Funny content, content about makeup and fashion, music videos, etc. We need "Crazy Rich Asians", "Fresh Off the Boat", and we also need content like "Yappie." Not any one of these shows can fully explain the Asian American experience, and none of them should have to. Asian Americans are multifaceted, we have different experiences and have a variety of needs and values, and our content should reflect that.

Support and watch Yappie on YouTube (free episodes released weekly) and Vimeo (for $10 you can binge the entire series!).

Inspiration for this blog post: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/after-decade-youtube-wong-fu-productions-still-has-story-tell-n881606

Road Classification! by An Huynh

A video that combines a couple of my favorite things: cute illustrations and random (but useful!) urban planning knowledge! Quality content right here. The level of detail and specificity for naming road types feels extra and integral at the same time to understanding the city fabric.